Czech cross-border workers frustrated as Germany tightens travel restrictions

Photo: ČTK / AP / Armin Weigel

Long queues of cars have been forming at the Czech-German border since Sunday morning following the introduction of tighter restrictions for travel into Germany. The new measures affected mainly cross-border workers commuting to Bavaria, who have been experiencing delays of up to several hours.

As of Sunday, when Germany added the Czech Republic to its list of high-risk coronavirus states, Czech residents travelling to the country have been required to produce a negative Covid-19 test at the border.

Commuting workers have been particularly hard hit by these new measures. While Saxony requires them to have two compulsory coronavirus tests per week, in Bavaria they have to produce a negative Covid-19 test every 48 hours.

As a result of the new restrictions, heavy traffic jams started forming at the border crossings between the Czech Republic and Germany as of Monday morning. One spot where the situation was particularly difficult was the Bavarian border in Folmava.

Radio Prague spoke to one affected Czech worker, Jaroslav Tetaur, who was waiting there to get tested.

Photo: ČTK / AP / Armin Weigel

“We’re supposed to start work at 2 p.m. Normally, I’d leave home by a quarter to 1 p.m. and arrive at the factory by 1:30 and have enough time to change for work.

“Today, I’ll probably get there at around 4 p.m. That means I will lose two hours. I’ll either have to work extra time or have it deducted from my salary. If this goes on, it won’t be worth the travel.”

According to the Czech Association for Cross-Border Workers, tens of thousands of Czechs commute to Germany for work, including many with jobs in the healthcare sector.

Czech Ambassador to Germany, Tomáš Kafka, hopes that in view of the current situation at the borders, Bavaria might still reconsider whether it is really necessary for them to present a negative test every 48 hours:

“We know it is entirely up to the Bavarian side and that their authorities are acting in line with the German federal government’s recommendation. Nevertheless, they could make an exception.

“If they don’t, we hope that they’ll come up not only with financial compensations for the tests, but also with some logistical solution concerning the testing process, so that our cross-border workers don’t have to spend hours waiting at the crossings.”

Josef Středula | Photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio

Union leader Josef Středula says that while the situation of cross-border workers in Germany has significantly improved since the first wave of Covid-19, German politicians should show more willingness to find a compromise solution.

He also points out that both German and Czech border regions are heavily reliant on cross-border workers and so should do everything to prevent their complete shut-down:

“Everyone knows that if the borders were to shut down completely, many businesses in Bavaria and Saxony, from medical facilities to large factories, would have to close down. This is something nobody wants to happen and that’s why politicians really have to be flexible.”